Settlement Ends Cell Antenna Suit

By Richard Brenneman
Monday August 10, 2009 - 04:25:00 PM

The long-running and sometimes noisy battle over the installation of cell phone antennas in a South Berkeley neighborhood has ended quietly with a few pen strokes. 

A settlement agreement was signed last month signed by the city, two phone companies and representatives of the Berkeley Neighborhood Antenna Free Union (BNAFU). 

The deal gives building owner Patrick Kennedy the right to lease space to no more than three carriers on the roof of his warehouse at 2721 Shattuck Ave. 

In return, Verizon Wireless and Nextel agreed to pay $22,500 each towards BNAFU’s legal costs, with the city contributing $15,000. 

In addition to the legal costs, the city and the phone companies have agreed to provide documented test results showing that their transmitters do no exceed electromagnetic radiation limits set by the Federal Communications Commission. 

Kennedy, as the principal of 2721 Shattuck LLC, the building’s legal owner, agreed to allow no more than three phone companies—including Sprint and Verizon—to install antennas. 

A third carrier, T-Mobile, had already applied to install its equipment at the time of the July 10 agreement. 

The long-fought battle had pitted neighbors, including Michael Barglow, Ellen McGovern and Pamela Speich, against the companies. 

While the Zoning Adjustments Board had voted the antennas down on Jan. 25, 2007, much to the delight of neighbors, the City Council voted in favor of the projects on Nov. 6, 2007. 

The lawsuit followed four months later and raised the issue of the pro-installation vote of Councilmember Linda Maio, which was critical to the council’s 5-1-3 decision to let the project move forward. 

Maio did not disclose at the time that she had received a $45,000 loan from Kennedy to help her and husband Rob Browning buy a commercial condominium unit in another Kennedy building, an act that led to the councilmember’s deposition. (See the Planet's Nov. 13, 2008 edition.) 

Oakland attorney Stephan Volker represented BNAFU, acting City Attorney Zach Cowan represented the city, and the phone carriers were represented by two San Francisco law firms.